Sunday, September 25, 2016 Headlines & Global News

US Senate pours more money for Mars mission

With a couple of months left before the next US president takes office, the Senate takes action to ensure that existing space programs continue regardless of who will be running the administration.

By Shannon Azares | Sep 22, 2016 11:35 PM EDT

Planet Mars Shows Signs Of Liquid Water
In this handout provided by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, dark, narrow streaks on the slopes of Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on surface of present-day Mars. These dark features on the slopes are called 'recurring slope lineae' or RSL. Scientists reported on September 28, 2015 using observations with the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer on the same orbiter detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale Crater, corroborating the hypothesis that the streaks are formed by briny liquid water. (Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona via Getty Images)

Backed by a history of underfunded, if not scrapped, projects by previous administrations, members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee have taken action to ensure that the efforts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to study Mars will not go to waste.

According to USA Today, the bipartisan bill finances NASA with $19.5 billion to fund the agency's mission to understand and develop existing studies about the Red Planet regardless of who will take up the presidential office.

To summarize, the bill authorizes funding to ensure that NASA's mission continues. There will be $4.5 billion set aside for exploration, $5 billion for space operations, and $5.4 billion for the advancement of science.

"Fifty-five years after President Kennedy challenged the nation to put a man on the moon, the Senate is challenging NASA to put humans on Mars," said Florida senator Bill Nelson. "The priorities that we've laid out for NASA in this bill mark the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight."

Under the bill, NASA will be required to justify why collecting samples from an asteroid by 2021 is worth $1.4 billion. It also directs the agency to continue studying and developing the Space Launch System and Orion multipurpose vehicle, both of which are necessary if the ultimate goal is to send a team to Mars by 2030.

Other parts of the bill include the instruction that NASA ensure the safety of the astronauts by developing a space suit that can withstand whatever Mars has instore for them. The agency will also be required to conduct research on the effects of deep space on a human being.

Finally, the bill includes specific milestones regarding the Red Planet: by 2018, NASA should be able to conduct an unscrewed exploration mission, and by 2021, a crewed exploration.

NASA's mission to explore Mars is important as it may be humanity's last hope to survive the dire circumstances that our planet is currently facing. Granted that the consequences may take a long time to appear, but it's always better safe than sorry.

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Tags: mars, nasa
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